City must rethink cold weather alerts, advocates say
Man found dead in bus shelter ID'd as 55-year-old Shabbir Jaffa
Advocates continued to call for a review of Toronto's extreme cold weather policy on Wednesday as city officials confirmed the man found dead in a bus shelter on Tuesday died from exposure.
Shabbir Jaffa, 55, was one of two homeless men who died on city streets earlier this week. He was found wearing only jeans and a T-shirt in a bus shelter in Yonge-Dundas Square, less than 24 hours after another man was found dead in an abandoned truck.
Sources, who identified Jaffa to CBC News, said he was often seen around Yonge-Dundas Square and the nearby Eaton Centre.
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- Body found in abandoned truck
Advocates gathered on that corner Wednesday — near a makeshift memorial of flowers and other items — urging the city to rethink its cold weather policy, which typically opens emergency shelters once the temperature drops to -15 C.
Temperatures hit -14 C the night Jaffa died, but with the wind it felt like -18 C.
The policy should be more flexible and account for the wind chill, said Tanya Gulliver-Garcia.
"Sticking to something that's so rigid means we're not taking into account other factors," Gulliver-Garcia told reporters.
"If it's -10 and there's a strong wind, it could feel like -20 … the way it impacts our bodies is actually colder than when it's a pure -15 with no wind."
The city issued an extreme cold weather alert on Wednesday morning, opening thee 24-hour emergency shelters in the downtown core. Separately, an extreme cold weather warning for the city remained in effect with Environment Canada.
By evening the temperature, with the wind, felt like -30 C, cold enough to freeze exposed skin in just ten minutes.
Fingers, toes freeze first
"It's the wind plus the cold that actually determines how quickly your skin freezes," Dr. Brett Belchetz told CBC News.
Belchetz says many frostbite cases involve stranded motorists or the homeless who did not have adequate protection for their hands or feet.
Fingers and toes freeze first, he said, because the body will redirect blood to keep the head and torso warm.
"Your body is trying to keep your core warm … that's why you'll tend to see skin going red in those areas," he said.
At the first sign of frostbite — often tingling or numbness in the extremities — it is important to head indoors as soon as possible and warm up thoroughly.
Mayor John Tory has said the city needs to fix the protocol for extreme cold weather alerts.
Toronto Public Health, which oversees the alerts, said it has yet to receive a formal request for a policy review from Tory's office, but added that they would have "absolutely no concerns or issues with such a request."
With files from Shannon Martin and Canadian Press